Pamplin Media Group – Political notebook: Oregon elections heats up in January

Money rolls in, candidates step up and endorsers cross party lines as we draw nearer the May primaries. Oregon politics have been unusually active this month. The break-up at the top of Oregon politics began Friday, part of a wave of departures of veteran power-brokers this week. A rare independent […]

Money rolls in, candidates step up and endorsers cross party lines as we draw nearer the May primaries.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Former State Sen. Betsy Johnson is racking up both donations and cross-party endorsements in her bid to become governor.Oregon politics have been unusually active this month.

The break-up at the top of Oregon politics began Friday, part of a wave of departures of veteran power-brokers this week. A rare independent candidate for governor is drawing big names from the old guard among Democrat and Republican politicians, while a Democrat awaits final (or next-to-final) word on whether he’ll make the May ballot.

Johnson lists cross-party endorsements

Betsy Johnson, the former Democratic state senator from Columbia County running as an unaffiliated candidate for governor, has picked up endorsements from 15 Republican legislators and 11 Democrats. She’s also been endorsed by current Sen. Lee Beyer, D-Springfield, and Sen. Brian Boquist of Dallas, who was elected as a Republican but jumped to the Independent Party.

The GOP list includes former House speaker and Secretary of State Bev Clarno, former Labor Commissioner Jack Roberts and Antoinette Hatfield, the widow of Gov. Mark O. Hatfield.

Former Rep. Cheri Helt, R-Bend and former Sen. Chris Telfer, R-Bend, also have endorsed Johnson. Helt and Telfer were considered Republican moderates during their time in the Legislature.

Helt lost her 2020 re-election bid to current Rep. Jason Kropf, D-Bend. Telfer lost a 2012 primary challenge by now Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend. Telfer switched to the Independent Party and ran for Treasurer in 2016, losing to Democrat Tobias Read.

Johnson already has been endorsed by former Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, who was the GOP’s nominee for governor in 2018, losing to Gov. Kate Brown.

Democrats include former Sen. Mark Hass, former House Speaker Phil Lang, and former Oregon Democratic Party chair Margaret Carter.

Kristof wait goes on

The Oregon Supreme Court is not expected to decide on the question of Nicholas Kristof’s residency until Wednesday, Jan. 26, at the earliest. The bid for governor by the former New York Times reporter and columnist is in limbo until then.

Kristof, who now lives in Yamhill County, was ruled ineligible by Secretary of State Shemia Fagan because of his voting and work record in New York. Fagan determined that Kristof did not meet the three-year residency rule in the state constitution. Kristof is appealing that decision.

That hasn’t stopped Kristof’s fundraising. He received $50,000 on Jan. 13 from LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman of Menlo Park, in California’s Silicon Valley. Kristof currently has $1.9 million in his campaign fund; second only to Johnson’s $2.9 million. PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Treasurer Tobias Read has amassed a little less than $500,000 in his bid to become governor.

Other notable bankrolls

Treasurer Tobias Read reports just under $500,000 in the bank, while Rep. Tina Kotek, who is stepping down as speaker of the House, has just over $758,000.

On the Republican side, Rep. Christine Drazan, R-Canby, has pulled in $252,000 in the first two weeks of this year and leads all GOP candidates with just over $641,000 in the bank.

New candidates

Some of the interesting candidate filings that have come into the secretary of state’s office in recent days:

Two candidates have filed for Johnson’s former Senate District 16 seat. Rep. Suzanne Weber, R-Tillamook, announced her plan to run immediately after Johnson said she would run for governor. She filed for the office Jan. 11. Melissa Busch, a registered nurse from Warren, also had declared her plans to run as a Democrat. She sought the appointment to fill out the rest of Johnson’s term. County commissioners in the district opted instead for former legislative aid Rachel Armitage, a Democrat who has said she won’t run for the seat in this year’s election.

Tillamook dentist Cyrus Javadi and former Washington state correctional officer Glenn H. Gaither of Seaside, both Republicans, have filed to run for Weber’s seat in the House.

Home inspector Madison Oatman of Bend has filed to run in the Republican primary for the 5th Congressional District seat held by U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Canby.PMG FILE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tina Kotek's stepping down as speaker of the house is the first of three big leadership changes. Gov. Kate Brown and Senate President Peter Courtney leave their jobs later this year.

Power trio breaks up Friday

When House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, steps down Friday, she’ll break up the troika that’s been atop Oregon government since February 2015.

Then-Secretary of State Kate Brown became governor that month after the resignation of Gov. John Kitzhaber. She’s won two elections to stay in office since, but can’t run again because of term limits.

Kotek became speaker in 2013, two years before Brown became governor, but 10 years after the dean of the group took up his gavel.

Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, started presiding over the chamber in 2003. Unless he follows Kotek’s lead and bows out early, Courtney will leave office at the same time as Brown, when the winners of the November elections are sworn in next January.

Roger Stone returning to Salem

The Reawaken America Tour announced Monday that it would switch its planned April 1-2 stop from the Deschutes County fairgrounds in Redmond to The River Church in Salem.

Among the dozens of far-right speakers scheduled to appear is Roger Stone, the longtime political operative who is famed for, among other things, having a tattoo of former President Richard Nixon’s face on his back. Then-President Donald Trump commuted Stone’s sentence for felony charges of tampering, obstruction and lying to Congress during special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of foreign influence in the 2016 election.

Stone’s earlier visit to Salem made political waves. In March 2018, he was an invited speaker of the Oregon Republican Party at its Dorchester Conference in Salem.

Stone brought along members of the extremist Proud Boys as bodyguards. The entourage later was photographed in the bar of the Salem Grand Hotel having beers and flashing a white power sign. Alex Jones, the far-right blogger known for his InfoWars website, posted the picture on Twitter.

What’s a Republican governor?

A statistic buried in the 2020 U.S. Census: The median age of an Oregonian is 39.3 years.

That means more than half the state wasn’t alive when Gov. Vic Atiyeh was re-elected in 1982. No Republican has won a race for governor since.

Atiyeh took office as Ronald Reagan was in the mid-point of his first term as president. But Oregon’s neighbor to the north has Blue State bragging riots on governorships. John Spellman was the last Republican elected governor of Washington in 1980, the same election in which Reagan won the White House.

Spellman took office Jan. 14, 1981, six days earlier than Reagan. That means the last elected GOP governor in Washington took office when Jimmy Carter was still president.

This column appeared online in the Oregon Capital Insider. Warner can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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